The Mahavastu (great story)

by J. J. Jones | 1949 | ISBN-10: 086013041X

This page describes sixth bhumi which is Chapter XII of the English translation of the Mahavastu (“great story”), dating to the 2nd-century BC. This work belongs to the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism and contains narrative stories of the Buddha’s former lives, such as Apadanas, Jatakas and more..

Chapter XII - The sixth Bhūmi

(121) Then the elder Kāśyapa asked Kātyāyana, “What is the state of heart of the wise Bodhisattvas in the fifth bhūmi?”[1]

The elder Kātyāyana, the sage, replied to the pious Kāśyapa in verse:—

That the vortex of the world holds little delight, but is exceeding painful (is the thought that) is (in them as they pass from the fifth to the sixth bhūmi).[2]

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana concerning the “field” of a Buddha.[3]

Then the elder Kātyāyana said to Mahā-Kāśyapa, “Hear what the field of the saviours of the world is in its true essence.

“And I shall tell you, too, noble sir, what the upakṣetra[4] of these men of perfect eloquence is. Pay heed to these words of mine and to my teaching.

“A Buddha’s field is proved to be sixty-one systems of three thousand worlds, and an upakṣetra is to be understood as being four times this.”

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “Again, O son of the Conqueror, do Buddhas appear in all Buddha-fields, or do they appear in some only?”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa in verse:—

Here and there is a field that is not empty of those whose form is peerless. (122) But many koṭis of nayutas of fields are empty of the pre-eminent men.

Of a truth, rare is the appearance of Him who bears the marks of excellence, who has won perfect knowledge at the end of a long time, who is adept in the consummate dharma, who is of great glory, and who is a being mindful of the welfare of all creatures.

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “Again, O son of the Conqueror, what is the cause, what is the reason, that in any one field two Buddhas do not arise?”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa in verse:—

It is the very nature of the Buddhas to achieve the whole difficult task of a Buddha that is set the heroic men.

If one man of vision were not equal to the conditions of Buddhahood, then two great-hearted Tathāgatas would be expected to appear.

But men reject this notion of the inadequate nature of the great seers, and hence two valiant men are not born in one and the same field.

No one has ever heard that the Best of Men, sons of the Conqueror, have in times gone by passed away with their Buddha-tasks undone.

(123) The Buddhas, supreme of men, whether of the future, or of the past, or of the present, only pass away when they have fulfilled their Buddhahood.

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “O son of the Conqueror, how many other Buddha-fields are there at the present moment where Buddhas now preach dharma?”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa in verse:—

In the eastern quarter of the world there is a well-laid-out Buddha-field, where abides the supreme Conqueror named Mṛgapatiskandha.

In the eastern quarter of the world there is a healthy Buddha-field, where abides the Conqueror with the thirty-two marks, named Siṃhahanu.

In the eastern quarter of the world there is a resplendent Buddha-field, where abides the all-seeing great Seer, named Lokaguru.

In the eastern quarter of the world there is a secure Buddha-field, where the Master named Jñānadhvaja teaches men.

In the eastern quarter of the world there is a bright Buddha-field, where abides the Conqueror, named Sundara, who is radiant like the golden bimba.[5]

In the southern quarter of the world there is a Buddha-field that is full of palm-trees. There abides the Buddha named Anihata, who is the joy of devas.

In the southern quarter of the world there is a pleasant Buddha-field, where abides the great Seer, the Buddha Cārunetra.

(124) In the southern quarter of the world there is a Buddha-field free from all impurity. There abides the Guide, the Buddha named Mālādhārin.

In the western quarter of the world there is a Buddha-field that is free from strife.[6] There abides the Buddha, the destroyer of existence, named Ambara.

In the northern quarter of the world there is a pleasant Buddha-field, where abides the Buddha named Pūrṇacandra, learned in the sacred lore.

In the nadir of the world there is a securely-fixed Buddha-field, where abides the Buddha, the Tathāgata, named Dṛḍhabāhu.

In the zenith of the world there is an unshaken Buddha-field, where abides the Buddha named Mahābhāga, a destroyer of his foes.

There are besides thousands of other Buddha-fields, and yet other thousands, of which one cannot reach the end in enumerating.[7]

Thousands of empty Buddha-fields which one does not know where to begin counting,[8] and thousands of universes of three-thousand worlds.

As the beginning of the round of rebirth is not known, so neither is that of the universes.

One does not know where to begin counting the number of past Buddhas, nor of those who vow to win enlightenment.

Nor the number of those who are incapable of lapsing, nor of those who achieve consecration as kings.

(125) Nor the number of those who dwell in Tuṣita, nor of those who pass away from there.

Nor the number of those who lie in their mother’s womb, nor of those who stand there.

Nor the number of the heroes who are being born, nor of the world-saviours who have been born.

Nor the number of those who are taken on their mothers’ laps, nor of those who take the mighty strides.

Nor the number of those who laugh aloud, nor of those who survey the regions of the world.

Nor the number of those who are borne in their mothers’ laps, nor of those who are adopted by Gandharvas.[9]

Nor the number of those who leave their homes, nor of those who approach the bodhi tree.

Nor the number of those who achieve the knowledge of a Tathāgata, nor of those who set rolling the wheel of dharma.

Nor the number of those who convert koṭis of beings, nor of those who roar the lion’s roar.

Nor the number of those who shed the elements of sentient life,[10] nor of those heroes who pass entirely away.

(126) Nor the number of those who lie in entire release, nor of the heroes who are cremated.

Know then that this is the truth concerning the total number of the Masters, and concerning the fields in which a Buddha now and then appears.

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana, “O son of the Conqueror, if there are so many Buddhas, and each one of them leads an infinite number of beings to entire release,[11] then in no long a time they will have enabled all beings to win it. Thus this world will become absolutely empty, completely denuded of beings.”

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa in verse:—

Suppose empty space everywhere become full without a gap, suppose space that is without foundation and support be inhabited in all its extent.

Numerous though these worlds might be, still more numerous would be the average worldlings therein to be taught by Him who has insight into the highest good.

Whence, then, can there be a limit to the countless beings who listen to the teaching of the Supreme of men? Thus has the great Seer proclaimed the truth.

When this had been said, the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa asked the venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana (127) “O son of the Conqueror, in what ways do Bodhisattvas, who have vowed to win enlightenment in the sixth, lapse and fail to reach the seventh bhūmi.

The venerable Mahā-Kātyāyana replied to the venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa: “There are two ways, my pious friend, in which Bodhisattvas, who have vowed to win enlightenment in the sixth, lapse and fail to reach the seventh bhūmi. What two? They envy those who have won cessation of perception and feeling,[12] and at the very time that there are consummate Buddhas in the world, possessing full comprehension of the truth, and each declaring, “I am the great-hearted bringer of peace,” they do not[13] listen reverently and attentively to the divine beings. All Bodhisattvas, my pious friend, who have lapsed, are lapsing, and will lapse and fail to reach the seventh bhūmi, after living in the sixth, do so in these two ways.”

Such, then, is the sixth bhūmi of the virtuous lion-like Bodhisattvas, the benefactors of men, the great seers.

Here ends the sixth bhūmi of the Mahāvastu-Avadāna.

Footnotes and references:

1.

The citta or state of heart or mind meant here must be the same as that elsewhere (see p. 72) described as sandhicitta, for we have to do now with the passage from the fifth bhūmi to the sixth.

2.

The words in brackets represent a lacuna in the text. They are supplied in translation on the basis of the assumption made in footnote 1, p. 72, and by analogy with the parallel passages on pp. 72, 87.

3.

This passage is defective; the only part of the question that remains is the word kṣetramiti. The “field” (kṣetra, Pali khetta) is thus described by Buddhaghoṣa in Vism. 414: Buddhakkhettam nāma tividham hoti, jātikkhettam, āṇākkhettam, visayakkhettam, “The field of a Buddha is of three kinds; the field of his birth, the field of his authority, and the field of his sphere.”

4.

From its form the word upakṣetra might be expected to denote a subdivision of the kṣetra, rather than an area four times its size, as it is defined below. There is no reference elsewhere to the upakṣetra, unless it is meant to denote one of the three fields mentioned in the preceding note.

5.

“The red fruit of Momordica monadelpha, a species of amaranth.” (P.T.S. Dictionary.)

6.

? Or “incorporeal,” avigraha.

7.

Literally, “the other end of which is not known,” koṭī na prajñāyate’parā.

8.

Koṭī na prajñāyate’ntarā, literally, “the inner end (or starting-point) is not known.” In the succeeding stanzas this is expressed by pūrvā koṭī, “the point farthest back,” i.e. the beginning. See P.T.S. Dictionary s.v, koṭi. The latter phrase is translated where it first occurs; subsequently, to avoid a jingling repetition, it is represented by “nor the number of” and “nor.”

9.

In Buddhist mythology the lowest class of devas. Here and elsewhere in the Mahāvastu (e.g. 1.204) we find them attending the newly born Buddha. This is possibly a reflect of one of their functions in Hindu mythology, where Gandharva, their eponym, as parent of Yama and Yamī presided over marriage. The idea, however, that in Buddhist mythology they were regarded as presiding over conception has been shown to be wrong. See D.P.N. s.v.

10.

Āyu: saṃskāra. Saṃskāra is the Pali saṅkhāra, “one of the most difficult terms in Buddhist metaphysics (P.T.S. Dictionary). These elements or components may be viewed from two aspects: (1) as conditioning present sentient life, and (2) as forming the potentiality of rebirth into another life. Cf. D. 2. 106 sato sampajāno āyu-saṃkhāraṃ ossaji (Trans. Dial. 2, p. 113—“he deliberately and consciously let go (interest in) life’s conditions”. Footnote ibid.: The difficult term āyu-saṃkhāraṃ must here have the meaning in which it is used at M. 1. 295—6; S. 2. 266; J. 4. 215.)

11.

Literally “causes to pass entirely away,” parinirvāpayati.

12.

The translation here follows Senart’s rectification of a somewhat perplexing text. Saṃjñāvedayitanirodhasamāpattiyo must be taken as a bahuvrīhi compound, “those who have the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling.” Har Dayal, however (op. cit. p. 274), takes it as a tatpuruṣa, and translates “[they desire] to attain the trance of the cessation-of-percep-tion-and-feeling.” “Desire” will do as a translation of spṛhayanti, but the case of °samāpattiyo would require explanation. Presumably he takes it as genitive singular governed by spṛhayanti. The chief objection to this translation, however, lies in the fact that it classifies as a fault what is a Buddhist virtue.

13.

As Senart points out, this sentence, in order to be intelligible, requires a na before the verb śṛṇvanti.